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When down the summer shaded street
A wasted female figure,
Came rushing wild and eager.
She saw the white spire through the trees,
She heard the sweet hymn swelling ; 0, pitying Christ! a refuge give
That poor one in thy dwelling !
Like a scared fawn before the hounds,
Right up the aisle she glided,
A lank-haired hunter strided.
She raised a keen and bitter cry,
To Heaven and Earth appealing ; Were manhood's generous pulses dead ?
Had woman's heart no feeling ?
A score of stout hands rose between
The hunter and the flying ;
Flashed tearful, yet defying.
“Who dares profane this house and day ?”
Cried out the angry pastor. Why, bless your soul, the wench 's a slave, And I'm her lord and master !
“I've law and gospel on my side,
And who shall dare refuse me?" Down came the parson, bowing low,
“My good sir, pray excuse me!
“Of course I know your right divine
To own and work and whip her ; Quick, deacon, throw that Polyglot
Before the wench, and trip her!”
Plump dropped the holy tome, and o'er
Its sacred pages stumbling, Bound hand and foot, a slave once more,
The hapless wretch lay trembling.
I saw the parson tie the knots,
The while his flock addressing, The Scriptural claims of slavery
With text on text impressing.
“ Although,” said he, "on Sabbath day,
All secular occupations
Our moral obligations :
" And this commends itself as one
To every conscience tender; As Paul sent back Onesimus,
My Christian friends, we send her!”
Shriek rose on shriek, – the Sabbath air
Her wild cries tore asunder;
God answering with his thunder!
All still ! — the very altar's cloth
Had smothered down her shrieking, And, dumb, she turned from face to face,
For human pity seeking !
I saw her dragged along the aisle,
Her shackles harshly clanking ; I heard the parson, over all,
The Lord devoutly thanking !
My brain took fire: “Is this,” I cried,
« The end of prayer and preaching ? Then down with pulpit, down with priest,
And give us Nature's teaching !
« Foul shame and scorn be on ye all
Who turn the good to evil,
To give it to the Devil !
“Than garbled text or parchment law
I own a statute higher;
And every man 's a liar!”
Just then I felt the deacon's hand
In wrath my coat-tail seize on; I heard the priest cry “ Infidel!”
The lawyer mutter “ Treason !”
I started up, — where now were church,
Slave, master, priest and people ? I only heard the supper-bell,
Instead of clanging steeple.
But, on the open window's sill,
O’er which the white blooms drifted, The pages of a good old Book
The wind of summer lifted.
And flower and vine, like angel wings
Around the Holy Mother,
And Mercy kissed each other.
And freely from the cherry-bough
Above the casement swinging, With golden bosom to the sun,
The oriole was singing.
As bird and flower made plain of old
The lesson of the Teacher,
Interpreted by Nature !
For to my ear methought the breeze
Bore Freedom's blessed word on; THUS SAITH THE LORD: BREAK EVERY YOKE,
UNDO THE HEAVY BURDEN!
NE day, along the electric wire
His manly word for Freedom sped; We came next morn: that tongue of fire Said only,
He who spake is dead !”
Dead! while his voice was living yet,
In echoes round the pillared dome ! Dead! while his blotted page lay wet
With themes of state and loves of home!
Dead! in that crowning grace of time,
That triumph of life's zenith hour !
Break from the slow bud into flower!
Dead ! he so great, and strong, and wise,
While the mean thousands yet drew breath; How deepened, through that dread surprise,
The mystery and the awe of death!
From the high place whereon our
Had borne him, clear, calm, earnest, fell His first words, like the prelude notes
Of some great anthem yet to swell.
We seemed to see our flag unfurled,
Our champion waiting in his place For the last battle of the world,
The Armageddon of the race.
Through him we hoped to speak the word
Which wins the freedom of a land; And lift, for human right, the sword
Which dropped from Hampden's dying hand.
For he had sat at Sidney's feet,
And walked with Pym and Vane apart; And, through the centuries, felt the beat
Of Freedom's march in Cromwell's heart.
He knew the paths the worthies held,
Where England's best and wisest trod : And, lingering, drank the springs that welled
Beneath the touch of Milton's rod.
No wild enthusiast of the right,
Self-poised and clear, he showed alway The coolness of his northern night,
The ripe repose of autumn's day.
His steps were slow, yet forward still
He pressed where others paused or failed ; The calm star clomb with constant will, –
The restless meteor flashed and paled !
Skilled in its subtlest wile, he knew
And owned the higher ends of Law; Still rose majestic on his view
The awful Shape the schoolman saw.
Her home the heart of God; her voice
The choral harmonies whereby
The rhythmic rule of earth and sky!
We saw his great powers misapplied
To poor ambitions; yet, through all, We saw him take the weaker side,
And right the wronged, and free the thrall.